Timsons to stop manufacturing litho presses and focus on digital

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Wednesday 03 September 2014

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UK press manufacturer Timsons has laid off “between 30 and 40” of its staff after restructuring its business to concentrate on the manufacture of digital book presses.

timsons-factory-floor

Timsons has restructured its business to concentrate on the manufacture of digital presses

As a result of the restructure, the Kettering, Northamptonshire-based company, which was founded in 1896, will no longer produce conventional litho presses.

The directors of the business have split the firm into two wings by creating a new company called Timsons Engineering, which will be the component manufacturing side of the business to maintain its installed base of litho presses, to sit alongside Timsons, which will become a purely digital press manufacturing business.

“We are going to concentrate our efforts on digital equipment rather than on traditional litho. In undertaking that, we’ve readdressed the business and created a new digital version of ourselves which is slightly smaller than it would have been as a litho business,” said managing director Jeff Ward.

The firm, which reported a pre-tax loss of £1.9m for the year ending 31 March 2013, is due to install its last conventional press in the Washington area in the US in early November 2014.

There are 300 Timsons litho presses still in operation worldwide with around 50% based in the US, 45% in Europe and 5% in the rest of the world.

“We’re going to maintain our services and offer full support and spare parts to our existing customer base but our future now is going to be based on a digital strategy.”

Ward declined to reveal the exact number of redundancies, but said the job losses, which  came into effect on Monday (1 September) were “between 30 and 40”.

“We had a full [30-day] consultation and have been through with the unions and the workforce to look at everything that we can do. These are good people but with the downturn in traditional litho, we had to do something in order to rebalance the business,” said Ward.

“Strategically we wanted to concentrate on what we see as the future and we believe that that's going to be digital. There will now be about 25 staff working at Timsons and about 35 staff at Timsons Engineering so around 60 overall.”

The firm's financial statements for the year ending 31 March 2013 showed that its headcount had already been reduced from 153 to 118 following a redundancy programme undertaken by the business during that financial year as a result of “the economic situation combined with the general malaise in the graphic arts industry”.

“Over the past three or four years, as with most businesses in this industry, we have been reducing headcount as a press manufacturing business,” said Ward.

“Historically we’ve unfortunately had to decline numbers based on volume of available business but this is a completely different situation that was brought about by a strategic change and refocusing the business to what we see as the future markets.”

Strategic director at St Ives Clays Kate McFarlan said: “We’ve had a partnership with Timsons that goes back to the early 70s and have bought many of its presses. We now have a partnership with the company on digital and we installed its first ever digital T-Press. I’m sure we will continue to work with Timsons and I wish them well. The market has recently been moving to shorter run lengths and into digital and all of our recent investments have been in digital.

“I think it will be interesting because no other suppliers immediately come to mind that make similar conventional presses. So should any printer in the UK or Europe wish to invest in a more conventional capacity in the printing side, it's going to be more challenging than it would have been previously.”

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